With 137,813 active Covid cases in the city, hospitals in Bengaluru are running short of ICU beds, with several among them displaying a ‘No ICU beds’ sign. The numbers needing intensive care are more than the health system of one of the medically best-equipped cities in India can bear.
The struggle for an ICU bed in Bengaluru – as in many places around the country amid the deadly sweep of the second coronavirus wave – is real and often a matter of life and death.
Roger and Suma are a couple in mourning after the loss of Roger’s father.
Roger said, “We didn’t get an ICU bed.”
Suma added, “We tried calling. We called Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), everybody. We didn’t get any of the ICU beds. They were only telling that we have to wait, wait. We kept waiting and finally we somehow managed to get a cylinder. But by the time we could put it to use, he was no more. He left us. So we didn’t get any help from them.
“We went for the test at the hospital. They said it is positive but they didn’t have beds. They asked us to come though BBMP. We tried that. They allotted one bed but it was a normal bed. When we went, they said you have to take an ICU bed. But it was not possible for us. We tried again through BBMP but we never got the ICU bed. By that time his oxygen level was too low. We had to get an oxygen cylinder … but couldn’t save him.”
Bengaluru, in normal times, is a medical tourism destination – one of India’s top cities for medical care. But the system is struggling to keep pace with the deluge of patients in this second wave.
Dr H M Prasanna President of PHANA (Pvt Hospitals and Nursing Homes Assn) told NDTV, “We have about 650 to 700 ICU beds in the private sector in the city. Of these, almost 100% of the beds have been filled up with either Covid or non-Covid patients. We are all full. There is no way we can increase the number of ICU beds.”
On being asked, how a hospital decides who gets an ICU bed, Dr Prasanna said: “We decide who gets the bed depending on the patient’s condition…If someone’s oxygen saturation is below 80 on room air on admission, has tachycardia, or respiratory rate is high – above 25,26, low BP, multiple co-morbidities – especially ischemic heart disease – these are the patients who go to ICU directly.”
The state government says it will meet the shortfall.
Health Minister, Dr K Sudhakar, told NDTV, “We are setting up 2,000 beds of modular ICU with 800 to 1,000 ventilators in it.”
At the moment, however, the demand is more than the supply.